Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a hugely successful television series on WB and UPN from 1997-2003. Writer and producer Joss Whedon, long heavily constrained by the requirements of others, finally had the opportunity to create a series that was completely his own. Whedon had worked on it for years, first selling the screenplay in 1988 for a film version which was released in 1992. The story had been shredded and reworked into a campy, funny movie that Whedon loathed.
After five years, he was able to launch a darker, more dramatic, but still funny television series which captured the imagination of a generation of fans. Here are eighteen facts that you might not know about that show:
1. Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia, was Whedon’s original pick for the role of Buffy. Sarah Michelle Gellar was slated to play Cordelia. Gellar had to lobby Whedon heavily before he would allow her to read for the lead role.
2. When she was five, Sarah Michelle Gellar starred in a Burger King commercial that disparaged McDonald’s burgers. She was promptly named in a lawsuit by McDonald’s and had to give a deposition in the case.
3. If you were watching US television during the early 1990s, you may have spotted Anthony Stewart Head (Giles) in a series of 13 commercials for Taster’s Choice coffee which imagined Head as the wooing paramour of a new divorcee. The role somewhat typecasted him, so Head came to Los Angeles during “pilot season” in order to find a very different sort of role.
4. The name “Giles” came from Barbara Giles, Whedon’s housematron when he attended a private high school in the UK.
5. Nicholas Brendon (Xander) has a stutter.
6. James Marsters’ (Spike) first role was in a fourth-grade production of Winnie the Pooh. He played the role of Eeyore and fell in love with acting. His professional debut came years later in a stage production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He had a nude scene in that play and has been comfortable performing unclad ever since. Marsters later broke into television as a bellhop on Northern Exposure. He returned the next season to play the role of a priest.
7. Can you imagine Spike with a deep Southern accent? Because that was Whedon’s original plan before casting Marsters.
8. Sunnydale’s ZIP code would place the town in Morgan Hill, California.
9. Sarah Michelle Gellar has a pronounced fear of cemeteries.
10. Whedon was inspired for The Gentlemen in the episode “Hush” from, in part, Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. This episode, a fan favorite, received two Emmy nominations for writing and cinematography.
11. The Sunnydale weatherman in the episodes "Amends" and "Hush" is a real-life weatherman -- Mark Kriski of KTLA in Los Angeles.
12. Buffy occasionally made favorable references to Xena: Warrior Princess. The writers of Xena returned the favor by mentioning a play called “Buffus the Bacchae Slayer” in their episode “The Play’s the Thing.”
13. The show was the central metaphor that terrorism expert Anthony Cordesman used in a major 2002 treatise called “Biological Warfare and the Buffy Paradigm.” Cordesman explained that Buffy was “about a teenage vampire slayer who lives in a world of unpredictable threats where each series of crises only becomes predictable when it is over.”
14. The Simpsons was a leading inspiration for Whedon’s work in Buffy. Whedon wrote “If I could write for any show, it would be The Simpsons and Twin Peaks...As much as you could say that Buffy is a cross between 90210 and The X-Files, you could say it’s a cross between The Simpsons and Twin Peaks.”
15. The episode “I Was Made for You” has Warren building a robotic girlfriend who goes crazy and becomes destructive. The role was written with Britney Spears in mind, but she turned it down.
16. “Graduation Day” was delayed and rewritten due to the Columbine school shooting. The story involves the destruction of Sunnydale High School with explosives by the show's heroes. That central element was kept, although certain statements by them were removed.
17. The musical episode “Once More, With Feeling”, lasted 68 minutes during its first run. It was edited down for subsequent rebroadcasts. Much of the episode is sung. Even the mutant in the Mutant Enemy trademark at the very end of the credits sings. That name, by the way, comes from a line in the song “And You, And I” by Yes.
18. Vera Wang designed Buffy’s wedding dress in “The Prom”, as well as the dress that Sarah Michelle Gellar wore to her own wedding.
Sources: Topping, Keith. Slayer: A Totally Awesome Collection of Buffy Trivia. London: Virgin, 2004. Print. -----. Slayer: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. London: Virgin, 2002. Print. Tracy, Kathleen. The Girl's Got Bite: The Original and Unauthorized Guide to Buffy's World, Completely Revised and Updated. New York: St. Martin's, 2004. Print.
Images: NY Post, Fox Studios, Warner Bros., Renaissance Pictures